Unpacking the New Changes at Instagram

Last week, Instagram announced some new features and planned developments in the works, as part of a broad shift within the company to position the app as a leading e-commerce platform. In a bid to enrich user experience, Instagram is making Influencer posts shoppable, allowing creators to sell products directly on the grid.

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Previously, only a handful of brands could use shoppable tags, whereas now ‘public figures, creators, athletes, publishers and artists’ will gain access. Beginning this week, the feature will enter the preliminary phase, with a selection of influencers, celebrities (including Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Huda Kattan) and around twenty brands (including NARS, Michael Kors, Elle and GQ) testing the water.

According to a blog post offering some insight into the strategy behind the move; a representative wrote: “Creators are a cornerstone of the interest community on Instagram and people love getting that spark of inspiration when they learn about a new skin care routine or see their favourite musician in that perfect denim jacket. And, unlike seeing the jacket on a rack, when they see it on someone they look up to – or someone who looks like them – suddenly its relatable and even attainable.”

For now, Instagram isn’t allowing influencers a cut of sales resulting from their shoppable posts, though the app itself could cash in; receiving a selling fee via the checkout beta. However, the potential ramifications for the influencer marketing industry could be game-changing. Shoppable tags will no doubt become entrenched in influencer campaign briefs as a new metric for measuring the success of a partnership. When it comes to sales, both creators and brands will be able to see ‘shared insights’ on Instagram – laying the groundwork for brands to set clear KPIs directly resulting from influencer activity. For brands, tags that allow customers to shop the look and click to buy without leaving the platform seems a much more appealing proposition compared to traditional sponsored content – streamlining the path to purchase and eliminating the need for active searching. Due to these updates brands will no doubt to give Instagram higher priority on their marketing plans.

Monetizing influencer posts also presents new challenges, particularly when it comes to disclosure and labelling of sponsored, shoppable content. Already a point of contention, -with no universally adopted method of disclosure on the platform despite the introduction of the ‘paid partnership with’ template – signposting of shoppable content will need to be regulated based on locally-enforced regulation.

A second Instagram update has been revealed in the form of a revamped camera. The new and improved function will provide users with a more convenient means of creating a photo or video from scratch. ‘Create Mode’ is designed to make it easier to use effects, Q&As, text, filters and stickers without having to upload existing content. This development could make the creation of Influencer content more straightforward and potentially more visually dynamic.

Next, Instagram will introduce a ‘Donation’ sticker in Stories, allowing posters to raise money for non-profits from within the app. With 100% of funds raised going to the charity, the addition is currently only being rolled out in the US. Charities and organisations working with influencers and brand ambassadors should now be looking to their social media strategy as a key bolt in the fundraising machine.

Finally, at Facebook‘s recent F8 developers conference, Instagram confirmed that it will begin testing hiding Likes for Canadian users in the coming weeks. The prolific heart-shaped button will restrict the visibility of numbers of likes that can be seen on the main feed, profiles, linked pages and the Explore page.

The idea was put forth to reduce the amount of ‘popularity pressure’ and addictive impact on users and allow followers to focus on what you share not now many likes it gets. Instagram head Adam Mosseri said on stage: 'We don't want Instagram to feel like a competition.' However, plans to officially put this in place have not yet been confirmed. Whilst many brands struggle to define a clear ROI for influencer campaigns, soft metrics such as engagement (likes, comments, shares) can be used as a performance indicator in post-campaign analysis. Were this function rolled out internationally, brands working with influencers may potentially not be able to consider this a reliable form of measurement as only the originator of the content will be able to see the data. Additionally, brands not prioritizing sales, who implement brand awareness strategy and less direct brand-building will not welcome Instagram's shift in focus. When choosing which influencer to work with, brands often consider engagement rates to make their decision. With this data not readily avaiable to them, talent selection will need to include a more advanced vetting system, including a 360-degree profile analysis. 

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